Established in 1968, Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) is the umbrella organization of Associations of Deaf People in Ghana. It is recognized as a voluntary Association and accredited by the Ministry of Manpower, Youth and Employment. GNAD was granted permit to operate as a non-governmental and Non- Profit organization by the Department of Social Welfare and the Registrar of Companies, Ghana. GNAD is a member of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD). GNAD has mobilised around 11,000 members (60:40 for men and women respectively) out of the estimated 110,625 Deaf People in Ghana.
HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE GHANA NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THE DEAF
Rev. Dr. Andrew Foster, a Deaf African American and a graduate of Gallaudet University (Oppong & Fobi, 2019), arrived in Ghana in 1957. His main aim was to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to deaf individuals and to introduce them to literacy and numeracy through sign communication (Oppong & Fobi, 2019). Foster’s activities could be said to have been the starting point where deaf people began to form communities that were for advocacy work. A notable deaf movement initiated by early Ghanaian deaf was what was named “Ghana Society of the Deaf” formed between 1959 and 1962 (G. Amenumey, personal communication, November 2018). Although Deaf people in Ghana had begun to form communities whenever they come together in a specific geographic location long before Foster arrives in Ghana in 1957, these Deaf communities and their activities were not geared towards advocacy. The umbrella organization in Ghana that advocates for the welfare of D/deaf people, whether members or non-members, is the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD). GNAD is said to have been formed as far back as 1968. The deaf people before this period were unrecognized individuals who were usually hidden from the public because of stigmatization by their families, killed through rituals such as being thrown into rivers or buried alive (because they were considered a curse, or unpleasant spirit playing on the family) or, according to a victim, even exchanged for food commodities (Amedzofe, personal communication, November 2018).
Rev. Dr. Andrew J. Foster and Early Deaf Association
Until the introduction of formal education for the deaf in 1957, there was no movement for advocacy by deaf people even though they sometimes met up for social gatherings. Formal education for the deaf was introduced in Ghana in 1957 by the late Rev. Dr. Andrew J. Foster (Oppong & Fobi, 2019). As a pastor, Foster visited homes of deaf people in Accra to educate them. According to Ayi (R. Ayi, personal communication, November 2018) one of the oldest deaf people still alive (at the time of writing this chapter), Foster, while educating parents of the deaf on the importance and need for education, was advocating and motivating deaf people to socialize and come together to present a common front.
Oppong and Fobi (2019) espoused that Foster identified a few individuals aged over 10 years and enrolled them as students in his private residence in Accra. At that time, foster held classes for his students in the homes of parents of deaf children, but often educated his students in a primary school building on the weekends. Amenumey (personal communication, November 2018) said that although foster’s work was meant to preach the gospel and also educate the deaf, he could attribute the start of the deaf association to Foster’s work, stating that,
“Dr. Tetteh Ocloo, Stephen Dadzie, Steve Boateng, myself (Pastor Godfrey), and a few other deaf people who traveled out of the country to further their education in the United States and other African countries in the early 1960s and returned to instigate the formation of the deaf association were all beneficiaries of Andrew Foster’s early educational initiative. (Godfrey personal communication, November 2018)”
The inspiration and exemplary life of Foster gave deaf people the courage to start advocating for their rights. The first advocacy movement was the Ghana Society of the Deaf. Though the leaders of this association were not known, people like Mr. Godwin Amenumey, Mr. Humphrey Akaba, and Mr. Jonathan Amuah (all of whom are still alive at the time of writing this chapter) are a few known deaf individuals who claimed to have been members of the association when it was established. The Ghana Society of the Deaf (GSD), was located in Accra. It was made up of mostly middle-aged deaf people who were being taught by Foster in his private school for the deaf. They were deaf individuals who thought they (the deaf) have rights as humans and have to be treated as such after being exposed to American deaf culture through Foster’s teachings.
The GSD did not function well and suffered challenges because deaf people did not have literate leadership. The majority of deaf leaders at that time were illiterate and could not keep documentation of their activities. According to Amuah (personal communication, November 2018), in around 1965, the leaders of the GSD attempted to mobilize the members by visiting individual homes and even the Mampong Secondary Technical School for the Deaf to educate the students about the association. However, this did not work.
“In 1968, Ocloo, Dadzie, and Boateng returned to Ghana from the United States and paid a visit to the deaf community in Accra. During their visit, they discovered that the deaf people were marginalized, discriminated against, and were not accorded the rights and privileges they deserved. They also noted that the deaf community lacked leaders who served as transporters of their problems to the people in authority and the society within which they lived. (E. Sackey, personal communication, November 2018).”
This group was led by Ocloo. The movement of Deaf finest heroes according to Mr. Emmanuel Sackey (President of GNAD at the time of writing this chapter) was the beginning of the birth of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf, and consequently, the name “Ghana Society of the Deaf” was changed. Nevertheless, according to Ocloo some members did not like the abolishment of the GSD. Ocloo who is still alive (at the time of writing this chapter) was unable to respond to questions during a visit in November 2018 due to his advanced age and health problems.
The Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD), which is the umbrella organization of the association of Deaf people in Ghana, was established in 1968. As we have already stated, GNAD’s existence is a result of some Deaf scholars (Ocloo, Dadzie, and Boateng), who felt there was the need to mobilize deaf people and establish an avenue where deaf people can have their voices heard. However, after its establishment in 1968, the association suffered leadership challenges. Ocloo dissolved the Interim Management Committee (IMC) and was subsequently voted the first president in the same year. In 1996, the General Assembly (GA), the highest body of the association (according to the constitution) finally dissolved the Ghana Society of the Deaf and attempted to replace it with the Association of Parents of Deaf Children (APDC). This did not work as many of the parents did not show interest (E. Sackey, personal communication, 2018).
Name of GNAD President and date of Presidency
Dr. Seth L. Tetteh Ocloo = 1968 – 1977
Mr. Daniel M. Atiemo = 1977 – 1978
Mr. Andrew N. Nortey = 1978 – 1979
Mr. Samuel N. Adjei = 1979 – 1983
Mr. Godwin E. Amenumey = 1983 – 1990
Mr. Francis Boison = 1990 – 2000
Mr. Paul Braafi = 2000 – 2003
Mr. Samuel K. Asare = 2003 – 2010
Mr. Emmanuel K. Sackey = 2010 – 2018
Mr. Matthew Kubachua = 2018 – Date
GNAD’s vision is to achieve an active and productive deaf community with access to education and information and steady economic activities that can sustain and maintain quality and security of life. Its mission is to mobilize members, remove communication barriers, create awareness oofdeaf issues, and advocate for equal opportunities for Deaf People. In 1973, GNAD was recognized as a voluntary association and accredited by the Ministry of Manpower, Youth, and Employment. GNAD was granted a permit to operate as a non-governmental and non-profit organization by the Department of Social Welfare and the Registrar of Companies, Ghana (GNAD, 2019). GNAD is a member of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD). (See figure. 1 for organogram of GNAD/ GNAD-YS.)
GNAD has there (3) wings. These are the Women Wing (WW), the Youth Wing (YW), and the Sports Wing (SW). These wings were developed as a result of certain needs and challenges registered by members during the GA in 1996. For instance, during the 1996 GA, there was a proposal on health training issues for all associate leaders. However, the leaders selected were all males although the issues on the proposed health-related training focused mainly on women’s health issues. This did not go down well with the female participants who felt their rights were being relegated by the males. Thus, the WW was formed.
As we have already stated, the disruptions in GNAD’s GA in 1996 over the selection of males for a proposal meant for women-related issues was what led to the establishment of the Women Wing Association of the Deaf in Ghana. However, the question arose, “what influenced these women at the GA to suddenly rise against the decision to select males for the said proposed project?” Akaba revealed that, during his time of reign as the regional president for the Greater Accra Regional Association of the Deaf, he had been encouraged by the president, Francis Boison, in around 1994, to form a women wing movement. Akaba and Amenumey started to encourage the women in Greater Accra to initiate the women wing movement. During the GNAD 1996 GA held in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, many of the leaders of the women wing movement in Accra were present including President Boison’s wife, Mrs. Grace Boison. These women constituted the group who argued against the selection of males for the proposed project. Consequently, the women wing association was established that year during the 1996 GA.
Name of GNAD-WW President and date of Presidency
Mrs. Grace Boison = 1996 – 2005
Mrs. Comfort Arko = 2005 – 2010
Mrs. Patricia Baffour = 2010 – 2019
Mrs. Doris Anokye Birago = 2019 – Date
WW is the association under GNAD which sees to the affairs of Deaf women and girls. As a wing of GNAD, WW association does not have its own constitution. There has been no documented achievement of the Women Wing association. However, people like Madam Patricia Baffour and Mrs. Grace Boison (both of whom were ex-presidents) claimed (personal communication, November 2018) that WW had organized a number of local workshops and training for its members both in the districts and national levels. They also revealed that WW had obtained project funding from international and local organizations like the African Women Development Fund, and Danida, which had led to the training of some members in hair dressing, tailoring, soap making, bead making, and other vocational trainings. In addition, equipment and tools were given to the members who participated in those trainings. Baffour and Boison also further indicated that their organization had been able to see that some of their members were able to participate in international events such as Miss Deaf World. A notable participant of this event, who was also the first Deaf woman from Ghana to represent the Deaf women in such an international event (Miss Deaf World – Australia 2007), was Mabel Adjei Mintaah.
Women Wing is particularly challenged with finding capable leaders. Sackey (personal communication, 2018) lamented that the problem with finding suitable women leaders for the Women Wing is one of the challenges of GNAD. He explained that, many of the women have low educational backgrounds and lack leadership skills. They have low self-esteem and cannot identify their associated personality traits or self-awareness. He further indicated that, those who have had education up to tertiary level in recent times are also unwilling to be part of the women’s association. Another challenge is meeting attendance. Members do not respond to local meetings. However, they will come in high numbers where there is an event that pays for transportations and refreshments. Another challenge of the WW is funding to undertake projects and internal activities of the association leaders. Due to low patronage of meeting by members, the association is unable to obtain revenues from membership dues. It is also difficult winning proposals for their projects.
The Ghana National Association of the Deaf –Youth Section (GNAD-YS) is a wing of Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD). It was founded in 2009 through a pilot project between Deaf youth in Denmark and Deaf youth in Ghana. The idea of the partnership came from the GNAD/Danish Deaf Association (DDL) partnership. GNAD and DDL had developed projects together for more than 16 years. The cooperation has developed from a small bilateral project to a multilateral cross-disability project funded by DANIDA. Through DDL, a connection was created with Danske Døves Ungdomsforbund-DDU (Danish Deaf Youth Association). This led to a pilot project in 2009 and subsequently resulted in the establishment of GNAD-YW. However, there was little contact between DDU and GNAD-YW after the pilot project, which unfortunately did not lead into a partnership project due to lack of resources within DDU. The youth association, however, managed to survive. In 2014, GNAD in collaboration with Danske Døves Ungdomsforbund-DDU (Danish Deaf Youth Association) sent two deaf youth (a male and a female) to Denmark for an international leadership and project management course for Deaf youth. Their studies and experience led to a preparatory and another pilot project between DDU and GNAD-YS (between 2015–2017).
GNAD-YS and GNAD share the same vision and mission. In brief, the vision of GNAD-YS is to work for an active and productive Deaf community with access to education and information and steady economic activities that can sustain and maintain quality and a secure life, with a mission to mobilize members, remove communication barriers, create awareness on issues pertaining to Deaf people, and to advocate for equal opportunities for Deaf youth. The GNAD-YS has five (5) board members
Name of GNAD-YS President and date of Presidency
Benjamin Kwadwo Bekoe = 2009 – 2016
Richard Doku = 2017 – 2020
Linda Gibbah = 2021 – date
The youth activities are monitored and supervised by the GNAD staff. GNAD-YS does not have a specific organization policy, although, it has its own constitutions. Between 2015 and 2019, GNAD-YS had been able to obtain two fully funded pilot projects with two different organizations; Danske Døves Ungdomsforbund-DDU, Denmark and Mill Neck International – MNI, United States of America. GNAD-YS has provided a number of leaderships, human right based, advocacy trainings, sign language, membership mobilization capacity building UNCRPD training and timely interventions including youth educations and material provisions to support deaf schools; at districts, regional and national level. There are over three thousand (3,000) youth members across the regions of Ghana. GNAD-YS has four project sites; Wa in Upper West Region, Bechemi in Bono Region, Mampong-Akuapem in Eastern Region (funded by DDU) and recently Cape Coast in Central Region (funded by MNI). The recent pilot project at Cape Coast entitled “Promoting the Participation in Decision-making of the Deaf Youth through Leadership Training in Cape Coast Metropolis of Ghana” was to create awareness of the rights of Deaf youth and equip them with leadership and advocacy skills to increase their participation in decisions on issues that bother on their welfare in the Cape Coast municipality. GNAD-YS has also collaborated with local organizations Such as Fusena Aids (FUSAID)-Ghana, Peace Corp-Ghana, Youth Employment Agency, and others to organize local events for its members.
The youth section has been very active in recent times. However, there is the issue with Deaf young women in leadership. Despite many trainings and workshop, it is difficult to get Deaf females onto boards at both district and national levels. This sometimes affects proposals and project applications as most funding organizations require at least 2 females on the National Board of the youth association. Also, lack of funding to run the youth association is a big challenge. Most of the project funds are strictly for the project activities outlined in the project applications. This means funds cannot be used for any other propose. There are, therefore, lots of activities in which the youth association could not undertake education and advocacy for youth in Ghana
Fobi, D. & Oppong, A. M. (2018). Communication approaches for educating deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children in Ghana: historical and contemporary issues. Deafness & Education International, DOI: 10.1080/14643154.2018.1481594
Grischow, J. D. (2015). ‘I nearly lost my work’: chance encounters, legal empowerment and the struggle for disability rights in Ghana. Disability & Society, 30(1), 101-113.
Oppong, A. M. & Fobi, D. (2019). Deaf Education in Ghana. In Knoors, H., Brons, M. & Marschark, M. Deaf Education beyond the Western World – Context, Challenges and Prospects for Agenda 2030. Pp 53-72. New York: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oso/9780190880514.003.0004
Republic of Ghana (2006), Persons with Disability Law (ACT 715). Accra: Republic of Ghana.
To achieve an active and productive deaf community with access to education and information, and steady economic activities that can sustain and maintain quality and security of life.
To mobilise members, remove communication barriers, create awareness on deaf issues, and advocate for equal opportunities for the Deaf People.
A) Enhanced Social Participation
GNAD implements family welfare projects aimed at educating the Deaf on reproductive health, family planning and responsible parenthood, gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS, and other important issues. Sports development projects are also implemented in the regional and district branches of the Association to help develop and enhance the physical and social well-being of the Deaf, as well as promote their participation in sporting activities in the country and abroad.
B) Economic Empowerment
This programme aims to create source of livelihood for unemployed members of the Association by implementing income generating projects on a per regional basis. These include bead-making and batik and tie-and-dye production in the central region, soap-making in the Brong Ahafo Region, gari-processing in the Eastern Region, and farm projects in Ashanti and Volta Regions.
GNAD has been able to mobilise around 11,000 members in the 10 regions of Ghana. As a mouthpiece of the Ghanaian Deaf Community, GNAD takes interest in the welfare of the Schools for the Deaf in Ghana. GNAD also teaches sign language to individuals and organizations to ease the communication difficulties between the Deaf Community and the hearing public. GNAD continually lobby and advocate for the rights of the Deaf in Ghana.
Reach us through: